Please explain the illustration by David Diaz in Their Eyes Were Watching God?  

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although I'm pretty sure that that particular artist designed a few different covers for Their Eyes Were Watching God, I will provide a short commentary on what I expect is the most widely circulated version pictured here:  http://www.amazon.com/Jonahs-Gourd-Mules-Their-Watching/dp/0965109062/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319076922&sr=1-3

The illustration depicts a very relaxed Janie laying on her back, in the grass, one hand behind her head, gazing up at a blossoming pear tree.  The painting is very distinct and angular, producing a very distinct style.  The only colors are green (the tree, the grass, the hills), blue (the sky), purple (Janie's skin), and white (Janie's clothes, the bees, the pear tree blossoms).

This illustration is a direct representation of the following quotation (possibly one of the most famous from the entire novel):

She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight.

The pear tree is one of the most important (and positive) symbols in Hurston's novel.  The tree (particularly when in blossom) symbolizes Janie's blossoming femininity, sexuality, and spirituality.  Note the "embrace" described above between the bees and the flowers.  Such a beautiful and fertile sexual  symbol!  Therefore it is entirely appropriate that this very image often graces the cover of this fabulous novel.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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